“Building a Toronto that Moves” city election survey

Walk Toronto has teamed up with the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), Canada Walks, Cycle Toronto and the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) to create an election survey for council and mayoral candidates in the upcoming civic elections.

The survey, called “Building a Toronto that Moves,” includes 4 questions each about walking, cycling and transit.

The survey was launched at a press conference this morning (Tuesday June 3) at City Hall.

The full document and the election questions can be found on the TCAT website. The survey results will be published in the fall close to the date of the election, to help Toronto voters make their decision about which candidates to support.

It was challenging to choose just 4 questions to ask, but here are the ones we came up with for walking:

1. Do you support enabling neighbourhoods to establish “slow zones” (with a maximum speed of 30 km/hr) on residential roads?

2. Do you support permanently widening sidewalks with high pedestrian activity in downtown Toronto, such as Yonge Street?

3. Do you support extending snow clearing to all residential sidewalks in Toronto, at an estimated cost of $10M per year?

4. Will you work with the Toronto area school boards to develop and implement School Travel Plans that will improve the safety and integrity of school walking routes?

More detailed background about each issue can be found in the full document.



Walk Toronto calls on the City of Toronto to extend snow clearing to every sidewalk in the city

Walk Toronto is calling on the City of Toronto to commit to clearing the snow from every sidewalk in the City.

While the City ploughs sidewalks in suburban areas, 1,100 km of sidewalk in the parts of Toronto most heavily used by pedestrians are not cleared of snow by the City. Instead, in this “No-plough zone” residents are required to do so, with inconsistent results. As a consequence, ice and snow makes sidewalks throughout a large part of the City dangerous during the winter, especially for seniors and the disabled. Some may be unable to leave their house, and others may suffer life-threatening injuries. Meanwhile, the City pays out millions of dollars in insurance claims and struggles to enforce its own sidewalk clearance bylaws. The current policy simply does not meet the basic standards for creating a fully accessible city.

The full consequences of this City policy are laid out in a comprehensive report by Walk Toronto, “Keeping Sidewalks Safe in Winter” (PDF).

A new report from City of Toronto Transportation Services (PDF) claims that it is impossible for the City to clear narrow sidewalks in the “No-plough zone.” However, the Walk Toronto report demonstrates that in fact many cities already clear narrow sidewalks, and shows the kind of equipment that the city could purchase or contract to do so. Doing so is affordable as well – while Ottawa and Montreal’s budget for snow clearing comes to $0.44 per capita for every centimetre of snowfall they receive, Toronto only spends $0.27 per centimetre of snowfall per capita. Even the most expensive option would only bring that up to $0.30, and the cost should be much less.

The Transportation Services report will be discussed by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday April 9. Walk Toronto is calling on the committee to direct Transportation Services staff to come up with a plan and a realistic budget to clear every sidewalk in the city. It is important for the City to act now, as the contracts for snow clearing will be coming up for renewal in 2015.

Walk to School Resources

Several parents have contacted Walk Toronto to find out how they can make it easier and safer for their children to walk to school. There are programs in Toronto and the GTA, both from governments and NGOs, dedicated to increasing the number of students walking to school.

Active and Safe Routes to School is a program initiated by Green Communities Canada. They have developed a whole series of programs and resources, and they partner with municipalities and school boards. See for example the Canadian School Travel Planning Facilitator Guide (PDF).

Toronto Public Health has staff members dedicated to working on the Active and Safe Routes to School program. They are a good first point of contact to help organize activities and navigate the City and school bureaucracy to get changes made. They have recently added a “Walking to School” information page.

Toronto District School Board’s EcoSchools program has a Sustainable Transportation module (PDF) which students and teachers can use to connect with the right people at the Board and get started.

Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is also very interested in promoting walking to school. Metrolinx conducted a large-scale School Travel Study (PDF) to identify the current state of school travel in the region and has published School Travel Planning in Action in Ontario (PDF) to feature some case studies of successful programs, with concrete examples of the measures taken in specific schools and the increase in walking to school that resulted.

It’s also helpful to get the local city councillor and school board trustee on board. They can help with working with staff, for example the area manager for City of Toronto Transportation Services, who are the ones who will implement changes. Most importantly, your local councillor will be the person who brings any proposals for changes to the streets to the local community council. When working with elected officials, it’s always more persuasive to have a group of parents supporting any initiative, rather than just working on an individual basis.

A good starting point is often to organize a walk along the route in question, including parents, children, the local councillor, possibly local police (who are in charge of the crossing guard program), and city staff.

If you know of other resources, or have experience with working on a walk to school initiative, please let us know in the comments.

Toronto Walking Resources

The City of Toronto has a wide range of policies related to walking, but it’s not always easy to know about them or to find them. This post provides a convenient list of links to these various policies, so that anyone who is interested can get an overview what the City is doing, or at least says it should be doing, to improve the pedestrian experience in Toronto.

List revised in Feb. 2014 to update links to new City of Toronto website.

Various non-municipal organizations also provide useful information about walking policy and programs:

If I’ve missed anything, please add them in the comments.